Is the NAACP Relevant? It’s Up to You

Vast legacy continues as organization tackles today's issues

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0609_naacp1President Barack Obama made his historic trek to Ghana this weekend — the first trip to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office. As part of the visit, the First Family stood in the “Door of No Return” at Cape Coast Castle, a horrid port where black men and women were held in dungeons before boarding slave ships in shackles. Moved by the moment, Obama said: “As painful as it is, I think that it helps to teach all of us that we have to do what we can to fight against the kinds of evils that, sadly, still exist in our world.”

On Sunday, thousands of miles away in the village of Harlem, New York, Gov. David Paterson, the first African American to occupy New York’s statehouse, hosted an event that served as a tribute to the descendants of those enslaved Africans who had to fight “evils” on American shores. In the Great Hall at The City College of New York, he hosted a reception to help kick off a week-long convention that will commemorate the centennial anniversary of the NAACP. Under the theme, “Bold Dreams, Big Victories,” the event attracted conference attendees as well as leading civil rights and political leaders like Rev. Al Sharpton, House Ways and Means Chair Rep. Charles Rangel, former New York Mayor David Dinkins, New york City Controller and mayoral hopeful William C. Thompson, Jr., NAACP’s New York Chapter President Hazel Dukes, and Benjamin Jealous, the 36-year-old former community organizer who last year became the youngest person to run the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization.

As the series of speakers spoke at the podium, each recounted the organization’s history and communicated its vital role in advancing African Americans over the past 100 years. Led by such activists as W.E.B. DuBois and Ida Barnett Wells, the organization was started In 1909 in response to the lynchings of African Americans and defense of blacks’ constitutional rights that had been stripped by Jim Crow laws.

Paterson told the crowd: “The NAACP was established on February 12th of that year, the 100th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, the president who freed the slaves with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The NAACP was the response to the violence being felt by blacks all over the country through hangings, murders and vicious attacks. It was a reminder to America that we were supposed to be free.”

He added, “The NAACP has always stood for economic, political and social justice. That’s why we have an African American as president of the United States. As governor of this state at the only time when two African American governors are in office at same time, it could not have been possible without you.”

Jealous echoed Paterson’s sentiment, citing the NAACP’s century-long fight for racial equality. The organization won hard-fought battles that desegregated the Armed Forces and educational institutions; enabled blacks to gain positions in corporate America; and hold political office. Maintained Jealous:”Ultimately, those actions paved the way for Xerox’s Ursula Burns to become the first black woman to head a Fortune 500 corporation and for American Express CEO Ken Chenault and Citigroup Chairman Dick Parsons to lead major corporations. The NAACP represents the best long-term investment this country has known.”

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  • very insightful article. hope they have tiered memberships cuz folks in the hood – who need the memberships the most – are not going to part with too much dough for an organization that doesn’t affect their everyday lives in an immediately impactful way.

  • eric

    I am challenged to see how the NAACP can affect any change at all in the Black community. I live in a high poverty community. To ‘solve’ problems the ‘leaders’ have worked to shut down problem bars and restaurants and stores. Unfortunately, this has resulted in folks hanging out on the corners and a siege mentality amongst the many who live here. The only true meeting spot in the community right now is the Urban League headquarters! There are no spaces to network in. There is no community culture, just one of survival which is very similar to prison! The NAACP has moved communities in the North Central US in particuliar Minneapolis back into the 50’s and actually regressed educational advances made.
    Now the NAACP has done wonders in the Black Prosperity Belt lets be clear the success of Blacks in Houston, Atlanta, etc cannot be denied and the NAACP has played the leadership role in this. It has however done this at the expense of Minneapolis.

  • The challenge lies in each of us to no longer look to Obama, NAACP, or any other entity, institution, or person to take charge of us and be the captains of our own souls. The NAACP may have served a vital function some time ago but now it is up to each one of us – Looking at the man, woman and child in the mirror – to take 100% responsibility for where they are personally, financially, spiritually, emotionally and physically to change ourselves. If we do that there will be enough good and positive energy to change the universe. We need to learn to mind our own business – You, Inc.

  • Clint, GA

    The NAACP has always been a very progressive organization; however, over that past 10-15 years they have lost touch with the average black community. I hope the new young brother (Jealous)they recently brought on-board will change that, but the have an “old-mindset” (Bond and others) in dealing with current issues. The key for black’s in this country is education and by that I mean pre-school, elementary, high-school, college and trade-schools. We got to end the drop-out rate for blacks (especially young black men). I remember when Mr. Gordon can on-board to try to change the “mindset” of the NAACP and the “old-school” broad members chased him out when he was trying to address economic and educational issues in black America. I hope they give Jealous a chance to change the “mindset” of the NAACP, but the brothers like Bond will have to move on. They are not doing anything but pulling down a “nice payday” and that got to end. They need to go back to the “roots” of the black community to and change the overall direction of Black America. Mr Obama’s election as President should give all of Black America a reason to get off the asses and stop the excuses … Enough said.

  • The NAACP works. A whole lot of stand up citizens work together to make this a better world and that is always relevant. Lifetime member and thankful for those who gave their lives and those that continue to do so for all of us. Keep up the good work.

  • Elie Parker

    For the NAACP to be relevant, it needs to address the economic needs of the poor. In order to do that, the NAACP should build businesses to create jobs, build schools to improve education, encourage healthy eating habits to save lives and reduce health cost, and promote family planning to reduce the number of unmarried mothers. At the same time, the NAACP should discourage the use of those things that harm poor families like alcohol, drugs and tobacco products. The Black community can do this. Like President Obama said, we must take responsibility for our own destiny.

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